THE HAGUE (Dispatches) – Former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic will on Tuesday hear the decision on his appeal against his genocide conviction, in a Hague tribunal’s final verdict on the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
The ruling will be the closing chapter in the case against the man dubbed the “Butcher of the Balkans”, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a UN war crimes tribunal in 2017.
Now an ailing 78-year-old, the once-burly military strongman of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war is expected to be in court, where he has previously delivered angry outbursts against the West.
Mladic, who spent a decade on the run before his capture in 2011, was convicted of one count of genocide for the massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995.
Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the verdict, telling reporters this week he “can’t imagine another outcome than confirmation.”
Families of some of the men and boys massacred in Srebrenica said they will be outside the court on Tuesday.
“This verdict is not only important for the victims and survivors. It is very important for the future of our children, of all of us,” said Subasic, who planned to be at the court with around a dozen supporters.
Munira Subasic, president of one of the “Mothers of Srebrenica” associations, also said, “We will go to The Hague to look the executioner in the eye once again as he is finally sentenced” nearly three decades after the Bosnian War.
On July 11, 1995, the Serb forces commanded by Mladic overran Srebrenica, which had been declared a “safe zone” by the United Nations and was protected by lightly-armed Dutch peacekeepers.
Mladic’s forces sent women and children away and captured and executed men and boys.
In less than two weeks, the Serbian forces systematically murdered more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys and buried their bodies in numerous mass graves in an attempt to hide their crime.
Almost 7,000 of those killed have been found and identified, but some 1,000 others are still missing.
The massacre occurred while UN peacekeepers stood by fecklessly and NATO refused to intervene.
The 1992-1995 war killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless, most of them Muslims.
According to prosecutors, Mladic personally oversaw the atrocities as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing to drive out Muslims.
A researcher at the T.M.C. Asser Institute in The Hague, Sofia Stolk, said the final verdict is important because it closes the tribunal’s last key case and because it concerns genocide, the deliberate killing of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of its destruction.